Setting Boundaries: Scripting Your Success

Football season is here, and that means a whole lot to some people. Part of embracing the football culture is checking out the highlights on Monday morning after all the college and professional teams have finished playing. Frequently, we see slow motion videos that allow us to take a closer look at some of those close plays. Inevitably, there will be multiple arguments this season about whether or not a player was in bounds when the whistle blew or he was tackled or fell on his own to the ground. Why are the boundary lines so important? Obviously, the white lines down the field represent where players need to stay to score a touchdown or remain within the area of play. In essence, the boundaries dictate what the players can and cannot do. Football players are given their boundaries. The rest of us are lucky enough to have the freedom to decide our own.

We know that setting boundaries is crucial if we want to lead happy, effective, and efficient lives. Bogging ourselves down with too many activities is bad news. We have to set a boundary and limit how much we say “yes” to. Allowing negative relationships to rule our lives is another place to start setting boundaries. If we want to increase our emotional well-being, we don’t have much of an option other than setting boundaries. To learn more about the importance of boundaries, check out our previous post here.

It wouldn’t be fair to push the importance of setting boundaries and leave you to sort out how to get there. We want to help you Fight to Your Strengths and not the other person’s. Boundary scripts are a helpful tool to help set those necessary boundaries. If you’ve read the other posts and are ready to tackle the wonderful world of setting boundaries, slow down for just a moment. Think back to a time when you confronted someone about a boundary. You may not have been consciously trying to set a boundary at the time, but chances are, it didn’t go well. You likely faced hostility and manipulation from the other person, which is likely the reason you need to set a boundary with that person in the first place. Boundary scripts can help you do that.

Think about what a script in a play is. Scripts are given to actors and actresses, and they dictate everything that is to be done on stage. Everything from the props needed to the tone of voice to the movements to the actual words spoken are on the script. The actor or actress, provided they do their homework, has no question about what to do when it’s time to hit the stage. Boundary scripts work the same way. They help you stay on track with the words and actions you should take when it’s time for you to perform. The only difference between you and the actor is that you are sincere while they are putting on a show. You will use these scripts to help you be prepared when it’s your time to set emotional boundaries. This way, you will know what to say when someone tries to use manipulation tactics or pure hostility and aggression to change your mind.

The first step is to decide what organizational method will work best for you. I happen to like old-school 3 x 5 index cards. If you’re more technologically inclined, you can store your scripts in your phone or computer. You can write setting boundariesthem in a notebook. It really doesn’t matter as long as the system works for you. You want this system to be convenient for you so that you can actually use it. You then need to decide why you even need these scripts. What boundary of yours is being broken? Who is breaking it? What actions specifically lead to the demise of this boundary? Is this a physical, emotional, or mental boundary?

Now it’s time to get your thoughts down on paper or your tech device. Visualize the best possible outcome. If you could stage this conversation between you and the other person, what would the very best outcome look like to you? Go ahead and write that down. Now it’s time to be a bit more realistic. You know this other person well. Write down all the different things this person could potentially say or do when you present them with this new boundary. The next thing you’ll want to record is how you’re going to stand tall against all their actions and words. Their defense or explanation is going to be lame. I can confidently say that because your boundary is your boundary, and any attempt to negate it is lame. Here are a few things I like to keep in my back pocket when setting a boundary with someone:

-“No.” Simple, but so powerful.
-“I will not…”
-“That’s an interesting comment, but is not acceptable with me.”
-“I’m sorry you feel that way.”
-“This is not up for debate or discussion.”
-“This is non-negotiable.”
-“I need a break from this conversation. Let’s revisit this later.”
-“I’ve done nothing to justify this behavior from you.”
-“I do not have to justify this to you.”

Simply writing these things down isn’t going to be enough. You actually have to practice. Just like you prepare to interview for a new job, you want to prepare for this discussion, too. setting boundariesThe other person knows how you’ve always handled yourself, so this new boundary will throw them for a loop. Don’t allow them to sway you into the “old you.” Own this new set of boundaries, and insist that they be respected. If the person, refuses, finish with a “this is non-negotiable,” and walk away.  This is the boundary setting version of the “mic drop.”  Don’t be surprised though if you hear some sort of attempt at manipulation using guilt or shame as you walk away.  Just keep walking!  By walking away and not aknowledging the attempt to manipulate you have won the round and in effect already set the boundary.

While boundary scripts aren’t an end-all, be-all solution to setting healthy boundaries, they are a great tool to help you get started in dealing with particularly challenging people and setting boundaries with them. If the conversation doesn’t end favorably, you can always try to set up another time to talk, or you can let the relationship go for now until the other person has time to grow a little. No relationship is worth your mental, physical, and emotional well-being.


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Great Expectations – Expect the Best